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Diamond to spend $100K on tornado cleanup by March

Emergency management agency meets to discuss lack of federal assistance

Published: Friday, Jan. 17, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

MORRIS – The Grundy County Emergency Management Agency met Wednesday night to further discuss the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s denial of public assistance funds.

FEMA already has approved millions in federal aid for individual home and business owners, but has yet to deliver any funding to help local governments with their expenses. The public assistance funding denied Jan. 9 would have done just that.

Severe storms and tornadoes ripped through the state Nov. 17. A EF2 tornado hit the Coal City and Diamond area injuring four people and damaging hundreds of structures.

Jim Lutz, Director of the Grundy County EMA, explained why the funding was denied based on FEMA’s assessment formula.

“The state formula is $3.50 of cost per capita using the state population,” Lutz said. “Based on that formula, they were at least $10 million short of the threshold.”

Shortly after the funding was denied, Gov. Pat Quinn announced he would be appealing FEMA’s decision within the next month.

“Personally, I don’t think they have a very good chance because we’re so far from the threshold,” Diamond Mayor Terry Kernc said.

Kernc said the village will have spent $100,000 on tornado cleanup once the last of the debris is cleared, which should be done by March 1.

“Not only are we out that money, be we will also lose real estate tax this year and next year,” Kernc said. “Those homes that won’t have their water turned back on, we are also losing revenue from that.”

The village also is waiving building permit fees for those residents and business owners needing to rebuild.

“We’re accruing a lot of extra expenses outside of just the cleanup,” Kernc said.

Kernc said she expects the tornado to cost the village several hundred thousand by the time all costs are taken into consideration.

But thanks to aid from other state agencies, local public works offices and hundreds of volunteers, Kernc said the village was able to save thousands of dollars in recovery costs.

“The department of corrections even sent in prisoners to help us clean up debris,” Kernc said. “We had a huge volunteer effort from hundreds of companies and individuals. If we would have had to pay for all of the things they helped with, the cost would have been significantly higher than it is.”

As it stands, Kernc said Diamond has enough extra money in its general fund to pay for the accrued costs, even if FEMA denies the village assistance.

“We are not a village that operates in the red. We do keep money in our general fund, always, for disasters,” she said. “We have an obligation to our residents and businesses to provide quality services, and that’s what will continue to do.”

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